Our first week in Salem

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Well, we’ve been in Salem for about a week and a half now, and so far things are going very well! I figured out the commute to my new office this week, which involves driving for about 45 minutes and then riding a bus for half an hour. Yes, that’s sort of a long commute, but the bus ride is actually pretty nice since I’m not the one doing the driving. Plus, the people watching opportunities are off the chart! The bus stops less than a block from my office, so it works out perfectly.

Celine had her first flute lesson this week, and she says it went pretty well and she’s looking forward to working with her teacher here. Her commute to Eugene is all by car, and it’s about an hour and 10 minutes, so we did pretty well hitting the middle.

As for seeing what Salem has to offer, we’ve had some pretty interesting experiences! Last night we went to the Oregon State Fair, with two goals in mind: 1) Eat lots of good fair food, and 2) See the demolition derby! We had fun, but it was a mixed bag in terms of our goals. I’ll start with the good stuff.

The demolition derby was pretty amazing. Our friend Delaney got us out to the Cheatham County Fair last year for the derby there, and Delaney, the one in Tennessee was probably better, but this one was pretty good. It was indoors in sort of a rodeo pavilion instead of outdoors, and therefore the derby area was a quite a bit smaller than what we saw last year. However, there were no real rules, so folks could crash head to head (I think because of the smaller arena), so it was pretty cool. The first heat was an epic battle that took quite a long time, and the second heat had a really good crash to end the match, so we were satisfied. One other odd thing: they called it the “Destruction Derby” here.

The food at the fair was a mixed bag, mainly because we made the huge mistake of paying $10 each to take part in their “BBQ Tasting.” For $10, you got five tastings, either BBQ or beer. We entered the tent expecting many tables of BBQ, all with their unique slant on the dish ( you know, like you’d find in the South). Now, we knew the chances of finding decent BBQ up here were slim, but we expected some decent efforts. But when we entered the tent, we found three BBQ stations, one with brisket, one with pulled pork and one with chicken (which is not BBQ by anyone’s standards). None of these meats had any sauce at all. NO SAUCE. How do you even call it BBQ if there’s no sauce?? We ended up trying more beer than BBQ, and the beers were pretty good, but the BBQ was a total disappointment.

After we left the tent, we did find a BBQ stand there at the fair. It was a restaurant called “Ella’s” that supposedly has won many BBQ championships – in Oregon. It was miles better than what was in that tent, but it was still pretty poor in terms of pulled pork BBQ. However, the owner told us she’s from Texas, so I’m assuming their beef was better.

Other fair foods consumed: an elephant ear (delicious!), sopes from a Mexican stand (good, but it was no Nashville taco truck), and strawberry lemonade. All in all, a pretty good night!

Today we headed to the Salem Saturday Market, which was a lot of fun! We spent $27 and got all of the following: a bunch of radishes, a head of romaine lettuce, three sweet potatoes, a head of garlic, an onion, two HUGE green peppers, a 3/4 lb. steak of grass-fed longhorn beef, 2 squash, a pint of blackberries, a wedge of locally made cheese, and a rosemary plant. That’s a pretty good haul for that amount of money out here, and all of the produce was locally grown. We were a little shocked to find that in almost every instance, produce was cheaper at this market than at the grocery store. I should get Celine to write a post about the grocery prices out here, but needless to say, it’s a lot more expensive. There’s no sales tax, but when tomatoes are $5.99 a pound, sales tax is hardly the problem. I think we’ll be doing most of our produce shopping at this farmer’s market, at least until it closes for the season at the end of October.

Okay, off to enjoy some blackberry cobbler! Made with fresh Oregon blackberries! Life is good.

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We made it!

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Well, it’s been a busy couple of days. I apologize for not doing a real post since we arrived, but since pulling in on Wednesday it’s been a non-stop marathon of opening boxes, unpacking boxes, tearing down boxes and moving them to the shop, organizing our crap, and taking care of all of the little details that you have to take care of when you move into a new place. This might be a very long post, so feel free to take frequent breaks. I’ll start at the beginning (or at least where I left off last time).

The last time I really wrote here, we were in Kennewick, WA for our final night of hotel living. The next morning, we got up early and left Kennewick around 6 AM, Salem bound. The drive between Kennewick and Salem was absolutely gorgeous. We had mountains on one side of us, and the Columbia River on the other. The hills were gradual and small, which made the truck awfully happy, and we made good time through Portland and on into Salem. Here are some pictures from our trip:

The Columbia River

The Columbia River

Wind farms! They are so progressive out here.

Wind farms! They are so progressive out here.

lookout

Once we got to Salem, we stopped in the parking lot of a Big K-Mart and unloaded Celine’s car from the car trailer. We also had to clean up the second kitty accident (Celine calls them cat-astrophes, get it??), which makes two poops in the carrier over a six day trip. Not too bad really, it could have been much worse. Once the car was unloaded, we left it in the K-Mart parking lot and took the car carrier to the Penske place and dropped it off so that we wouldn’t have to try and maneuver that thing in our neighborhood, which probably would have given me a heart attack. From there, it was on to our new place!

When we arrived, the movers were already there, and while they did a pretty good job, we’re not entirely sure they were an “actual” moving company. They looked like two people that figured out how to advertise in the paper to us, but they were recommended on the U-Haul website, so who knows? There were two unexpected revelations during our move-in: 1) it was 101 degrees outside (what happened to those temperate Northwestern summer days?), and 2) we learned that the house doesn’t have air conditioning. We’re almost positive that our landlady told us there was air conditioning, but alas, that was not the case. Many places out here don’t have A/C, since it doesn’t get that hot very often, but of course, we picked one of the hottest days of the year to move into our new house. I’ll be honest, it was a pretty miserable experience, but we got it done. Once we did, it looked something like this:

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It was like that throughout the house, but luckily we had competent management to help with the unpacking process:

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Back to work!!

With that sort of oversight, we’ve gotten a lot of work done since Wednesday. We now have a completely unpacked bedroom, kitchen, and living room, and the office, is about 85% there. That leaves the bathroom, which will be a challenge because of its tiny size, and the foyer/sitting room/other half of the living room. We’re not sure what to call that yet, but there are still plenty of boxes in there to go through. But it’s really starting to feel like a home instead of a storage facility, which is nice. We’ll post some pictures of the finished product when it’s a little closer to the finished product.

One of the things that helped us get so much done was the fact that the temperatures have dropped significantly from our first day. As I type this, it’s a lovely 69 degrees here, with beautiful blue skies and a little breeze. That’s been the weather for the last 2 days, and it’s amazing to have this sort of weather in the middle of August. We’ve been sleeping with the windows open in the bedroom, but last night we had to close them because it got too cold! In August! I could definitely get used to this.

There were some obstacles of course, the main one being that the gas had been turned off here, which meant we had no hot water until they came out to turn it back on. They couldn’t make it out until Friday, which meant no real showers for us from Wednesday morning until Friday afternoon. Try moving furniture in 101 degree heat and then not taking a shower for three days, and then you will know exactly how awesome this was.

Now, I know you’re all dying to know how the cats are liking the new place. Well, they are settling in nicely, although Tortellini is very sad to see all of the boxes going away. Mr. Lawrence is still learning the lay of the land, and we’re changing it pretty regularly right now, but he’s found the bed and the litter box, so that’s all that matters for now. We’ve even let them out on our patio a little bit, and they are very excited about being able to go outside a little. I think they’ll be totally in love with Oregon in a few more days.

Okay, this post is long enough at this point. I’ll try to post a bit more later about what’s been happening since we got here besides unpacking, and we should have some good pictures of the new place soon. Thanks to all of you for joining us for this little adventure!

Arrival

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Miles traveled today: 260
Total miles traveled: All of ’em
Miles to go: 0
States visited: 12, and we’re done.

No real post today, we are absolutely exhausted, but we survived our trip, unloaded our truck, returned our truck, and started unpacking today. And it’s 98 degrees outside, and we have no air conditioning (welcome to the Northwest!). Temps should be better tomorrow, which means I will post with pictures and and a real update.

Right now, I’m going to sleep.

Is this really day 6?

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Miles traveled today: 338
Total miles traveled: 2,333
Miles to go: 259
States visited: 11 – We hit Idaho and Washington today

As I type this here in this lovely blog, Celine and I are sitting in a Best Western in Kennewick, WA. Incidentally, I do realize that if you are doing the math at home, the mileage numbers in these posts don’t add up for some reason. I am blaming Google, and I’m definitely not interested in trying to figure out where we went wrong. So, too bad for you, they will remain incorrect.

Today was a relatively short day, but that gives us an easy drive tomorrow into Salem, which was the whole plan. We’re hoping to get an early start and be in Salem by lunchtime, which means we should be able to have the movers over tomorrow afternoon, which means we should be completely in our house by tomorrow night. At least, this is the plan. We’ll see how it all goes!

The drive today was beautiful once again. We finished our tour of the Rockies and then entered the flat wheat fields of Eastern Washington. During the course of the mountains, we had two occasions where we were going 25 mph up huge hills, but we made it, and it’s over. We do go through Mt. Hood National Park tomorrow, but I don’t think any of the hills there will be as bad as what we saw today. At least I hope not.

Anyway, big hills make for pretty pictures!

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That’s one of the last big mountains we saw. Once we cleared that one, it was smooth sailing. This next picture is from a town called Coeur D’Alene, a town that apparently is nothing but a huge lake. Since we were driving up huge hills and over many bridges, we didn’t get any pictures of the big water, but here’s a peek coming over the first hill:

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It looked like the kind of place you could spend a whole summer without tiring of it. The lake was crystal blue and huge, the mountains were all around – we almost just stopped there and unloaded our truck, until we considered the real estate prices on a lake like that one. Coeur D’Alene was in Idaho. We were in Idaho!

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But only for about an hour and a half, and then we crossed into Washington. Once we did that, things flattened out considerably, and mountains turned into huge wheat fields that appear to have been harvested. Some of them looked like they were about to be replanted (winter wheat), but mostly it was miles and miles of this:

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Truly, miles and miles. You could see forever, especially after being locked in the mountains, and it was nothing but wheat fields,the occasional farm house, and maybe a rare tree here or there. It did give us a good view of the trains though!

train

That one is really for Celine’s dad, he’s quite a train fan. We actually drove beside a train track for much of Idaho and Washington, it was pretty cool to see.

The cats have soldiered on, and of all the creatures on this trip, Mr. Lawrence is going to be the most happy to be done with all of this driving. Tortellini doesn’t like taking her meds in the morning, but after that she settles in for the ride, sleeping most of the way, and then she has a ball in the new hotel room looking for hiding places and items to destroy. Mr. Lawrence on the other hand hates taking his pill, still hates riding in the car, lodges his protests by yowling and scratching at his kennel during the trip, and then is just confused and overwhelmed by a new room every night. He spends a lot of time hissing and growling whenever Tortellini comes near him. However, he hasn’t lost his love for Celine (he’s curled up beside her right now), and after tomorrow his ordeal will end.

So that’s where we are now, in the plains of Eastern Washington. Tomorrow we drive to Salem, unload the car from the dolly, return the dolly, go back to the house, get our keys from our landlord, call in the movers, get our power and water turned on, and start unpacking. I also have a fantasy football draft tomorrow at 4:30. No big deal, right?

More Montana

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Miles traveled today: 343
Total miles traveled: 1,991
Miles to go: 596

So, I know that I said we were aiming for Spokane tonight, but that was just too far. Between not wanting to kill ourselves with too many miles and entering the Rocky Mountains, we decided to break what was remaining into three days instead of two. So, today we made it to Missoula, MT. That 343 miles took longer than you’d think, because we were driving a truck that hates mountains. At one point, we were doing less than 30 mph on the interstate. It made for a long drive, but we did make it, and I hope we’ve seen the worst of the steep inclines.

All of those steep inclines did make for some pretty pictures though! Celine took these while she was driving, which I don’t necessarily advocate, but you can’t argue with the results. This first one was taken as we were entering the Crazy Mountains. Seriously.

These mountains are crazy

These mountains are crazy

This next one was taken as we crossed the Continental Divide:

divid

And the rest of these were just beautiful shots as we drove. There were views like this for our entire drive, it can even be a little distracting!

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river

We rode beside this river for a long time today. Being from the Southeast, I was shocked to see a river with clear blue water!

Otherwise, our trip was pretty uneventful. We did have our first kitty “accident” today (Mr. Lawrence pooped his carrier), which is really pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. Celine dealt with the fallout like a pro while I continued driving. The truck was so slow that Celine was able to stop, clean cat poop, clean a carrier, repack and catch me in about 30 minutes.

That was really our only excitement today. Tomorrow we’ll be in Kennewick, WA, and then it’s on to Salem!

Badlands and Mt. Rushmore

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Miles traveled today: 372
Total miles traveled: 1,647
Miles to go: 938
States visited: 9 – Add Wyoming and Montana to the list

Today was a very long day. We didn’t get to go to the Badlands yesterday because of the rain, so we decided that we’d be there for sunrise this morning. That meant getting up at 4:15 (yes, AM) and driving the 40 minutes or so back to the park entrance before dawn. I’m not really known to be an early riser, but today we did it, and we are so glad that we did. I think it would be very hard to describe the Badlands to anyone, it’s just not like anything else I’ve ever seen. I’m not even sure that pictures can convey it, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t try! Here are some of my favorite from the day:

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It looks too small in the pictures, of course. We also saw quite a few different animals, some of which were nice enough to pose for pictures:

Wild sheep

Wild sheep

Rabbit

Rabbit

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

I think that last one is a chipmunk, but it had a very long tail. I’m assuming it’s some midwestern chipmunk variety that I’m not familiar with, but let me know if I’m wrong. We also saw deer and prairie dogs, but they were not interested in any photo ops.

After a quick breakfast, we headed back the way we came, towards Rapid City, and took the detour down to Mt Rushmore. Whenever you tell someone that you are going to Mt. Rushmore, they say, “It’s not as big as you think!” But c’mon folks, it’s still pretty big! It pains me to think of how something like that would have been accomplished. We weren’t interested in paying the $10 necessary to go to the little exhibit, so we just took pictures from the overlooks.

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We did all of this before 11:00.

We then headed back to our hotel and packed up our cats. Today’s drive wasn’t particularly long, but we got a late start, so we were still on the road until 8:00 (we missed the Mad Men premiere! Luckily, they showed it again immediately after the first showing). We made it to Billings, MT, and tomorrow we’re going to try to get to Spokane, WA, but that’s a very long drive. We’ll just see how far we can get in the time we have.

Now, some sleep. If you want to see all of the pictures we took today, go here.

South Dakota

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Miles traveled today: 348
Total miles traveled: 1,279
Miles to go: 1,311

Tonight we are in Rapid City, South Dakota, so we didn’t mark any additional states off of our list today. However, today was our first real day of heading west! As of this morning, we were a little further west than Nashville, but we’d mostly been heading north in order to catch Interstate 90. We’ll now be on 90 until we reach Spokane, almost 1,000 miles.

Today was an eventful day, which is why we didn’t get quite as far. However, we are basically halfway, which is crazy! This is probably best told in pictures, so here we go.

First, a little perspective on what I’m driving. It occurred to us today that we didn’t really have a good picture of the truck, so here’s one of me and my rig:

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I sorta blend in with the truck, but you get the idea. It’s a big ass truck. Our morning began with drugging the cats, which is an ordeal in and of itself (and one that Celine really handles – I can’t claim to be much help). This morning, that included corralling cats from under the bed. It seems that it didn’t take long for them to realize our new routine: food, showers, then drugs. They HATE taking these pills, but it does calm them down and make them able to handle the ride. Here’s Mr. Lawrence right after taking his meds:

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Ahh, glassy eyed and happy. I wish I could take one every morning before we left.

Anyway, we pulled out of Sioux Falls and quickly realized we were near the Corn Palace. The world’s only Corn Palace. Now, we do have places to be, and of course, we do have animals in the car, but this was THE WORLD’S ONLY CORN PALACE. It’s not like you can just drive by something like that. So, we pulled off the highway, parked the truck in a parking lot near the interstate, and took the car the last mile or so to the palatial maize estate. It really is exactly what it says it is:

This palace? It's made of corn.

This palace? It's made of corn.

While there, I had my picture taken with a large ear of corn while I drank my coffee and ate a homemade oatmeal cookie:

He wouldn't look at the camera for some reason.

He wouldn't look at the camera for some reason.

But I refused to take my picture with Zeke, despite his invitation. I think because he was so sensitive about people touching him. Like I was going to touch him anyway!

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After all of that awesomeness, we got back on the road. For the first part of the day, we saw pretty much the same things we saw yesterday: farms. However, once you cross the Missouri River, everything changes, and South Dakota becomes a truly beautiful state. Flatlands turn into rolling hills and grasslands. We stopped at a rest stop at the Missouri and took these pictures:

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And it really only got better from there. Celine took this picture from her moving car:

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The only problems today were a little bit of rain, and the “rolling hills” I mentioned earlier. It’s mostly just a steady uphill climb, and our Penske truck was none too fond of that. I bordered on overheating a couple of times, and this landscape doesn’t seem that mountainous. I finally wised up and turned off the air conditioner, and that made a huge difference, but I’m a little worried about the real mountains we’re bound to see in the next couple of days. Here’s hoping the highways aren’t too steep and that there are truck lanes when they are.

Our only other stop today was Wall Drug. Here’s my advice to you if you’re ever near Wall Drug: DO NOT GO THERE. It was basically a large, crowded souvenir store full of junk and bad food. Do yourself a favor and find a large uncrowded souvenir store instead. There are hundreds of them along your route, and they all have the same junk. As for the bad food, trust me, you’ll have tons of options there too.

We were going to go to the Badlands tonight at sundown, but a bad storm came through and ruined that idea. So instead, we’re getting up super early tomorrow so we can be there for the sunrise. Can’t wait to share those pictures. Then it’s off to Mt. Rushmore, and finally on to Billings, Montana. At least, that is the plan.

Anyway, we are loving South Dakota. It’s a beautiful state, and the driving has been easy. However, I don’t think I’d ever get used to seeing signs like this at rest stops:

They also have giant grasshoppers.

They also have giant grasshoppers.

Yikes.

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